Conchita at Lakeside

Conchita at Lakeside

 

conchita2

 

Every day she pushes two hand-trucks

loaded with tapetes and blankets and bolsas,

one at a time down the cobblestone street

to a grove of trees by the lake.

She unties the huge plastic bundles

and strings those ropes as clotheslines

from tree to tree in the grove,
using only her own, old body

in an athletic dance of lassoing and knots.

Then with a long forked pole,

she bends to her tapetes,

each sewn to a stick

and with part of a hangar embedded.

One tapete at a time, Conchita

thrusts them above her head,
hanging them thusly on her lines.
Each blanket, too, she lifts
with the pole that is taller than she is.
The straps of her bolsas, she loops
on a giant circular hook,

strung low for customers to browse.

She lives in a little room

up the street from the lake,

this short and sturdy woman from Oaxaca.

Spanish neither her

native tongue nor mine,

we speak for the weaving of spirits

more than words.

The braid down her back

is still mostly black,

gray only over her forehead

above her dark and lively eyes.

Hijos? I ask. No, her response.

From her arm-sweep gesture, I cannot decipher

if her hijos are dead, or never were.

On Sundays Conchita builds her shop

and sits like a bodhisattva to tend it.

But Monday through Saturday,

reliable as the afternoon,

she weaves the web of her tienda

and then without a costume change,

transforms to Spider Woman, Weaver Goddess.

Around a eucalyptus trunk, she fastens
one end of her back-

strap loom.

She seats herself on the earth

at the exact stretching distance
for the tension of her loom,

and removes her plastic shoes to go to work.

Her strong feet point

straight to the lake.

Her arms begin their dance,

her fingers performing as if on their own.

Conchita weaves, the rhythm

of her motion like the lapping waves,

ageless and unceasing.

Yet around her seems to sparkle

something of a trickster spirit.

Today, my water bottle ruptures—

When I jump up, Conchita points

at the growing puddle and grins.

Is that pee? Ha Ha Ha!

Raucous as the parrot overhead,

she teases me.

The weaver with a twinkle

coaches the serious poet,

teaching me wordlessly

You must laugh about it all.

From separate worlds,

meeting  at the sacred lake,

we laugh, the weaver and the poet.

You and I who see her working
cannot know her childhood,

cannot imagine what mother or aunt

from a long ago time and place,
taught her to weave and laugh.

I cannot know Conchita’s longings,
or comprehend the mettle

it takes each day for her

to stay at her work, at her life,

with wit.

At the end of a day, even when
she sells no weavings at all,

Conchita’s laugh resounds like the call

of a solitary free bird.
When darkness starts to descend,

somewhere Conchita finds the force,

this old woman weaver in Ajijic,

to dismantle her whole tienda

and haul it away again.

Like the imprint of an egret’s wings

on the sky over Lake Chapala,

each dusk Conchita’s presence

beneath the eucalyptus trees—

vanishes.

—Susa Silvermarie—

ssilvermarie@gmail.com

 

Ojo Del Lago
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